Patrolled by the Swiss Guards, Bernini’s Scala Regia is one of the most impressive staircases at the Vatican. Unfortunately, the stairs are closed to the public because they link the Apostolic Palace directly to the Sistine Chapel. However, you can get a glimpse of the staircase for yourself as you walk towards the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The famous Italian sculptor created the staircase in the 1660s and the Scala Regia remains the official entrance to the Apostolic Palace to this day.
The entrance to the staircase are the so-called Bronze Doors, and this is where you will always find a member of the Swiss Guard keeping watch over the palace. Just beyond, a coat of arms of Alexander VII with two angels hangs over doorway to the stairs.
The space for the stairs is actually quite small and so Bernini used a number of effects to give the Vatican entrance a bit more grandeur. The colonnades lead the eye upwards, but actually become narrower the higher they go. The impact of this makes the top of the stairs seem further away.
The Baroque ceiling also draws the eye upward.
At the base of the staircase, Bernini created a statue of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. Constantine is riding a horse who is rearing up. The statue shows the Emperor at the moment he experiences a vision of the cross during battle. It serves as a reminder that nothing is possible without the power of Christ.
Some tourists are allowed to use the stairs on special behind-the-scenes tours of the Vatican in order to visit the Sala Regia.
After passing through the Sala Regia, you arrival at the door to the back of the Sistine Chapel.